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NEW DELHI: After the sinking of a dhow in the Arabian Sea before proposing to use terrorists to kill terrorists, India stepped up its vigil on Pakistan by catching a hapless pigeon that had strayed across the border on Wednesday, for suspected espionage, local reports said on Friday.

“When it comes to the India-Pakistan border, even an avian is not above suspicion,” the Indian Express reported.

It said security agencies were in a flutter over a pigeon with “Pakistani markings” that was “caught” on the border in Pathankot district of Punjab on Wednesday.

The ‘suspect’ was nabbed by villagers in the Bamial sector of Pathankot district, which is just a few kilometres away from the Pakistan border. According to reports quoted by the paper, it was injured after villagers tore off one of its wings.

The bird has ‘Shakargarh’ and ‘Narowal’ written on its body in English, along with some numbers and words in Urdu. Shakargarh tehsil is a subdivision of Narowal district in Pakistan’s Punjab province close to the border.

“We are investigating the matter and have alerted the Intelligence Bureau and the Border Security Force (BSF),” said SSP, Pathankot, R.K. Kaushal.

The district police have left nothing to chance, even getting the bird scanned to check if there was something hidden inside it. “But we did not find anything in the scan,” said the SSP.

He added that there was something written on the pigeon in Urdu and that efforts were being made to get that read.

“It may be harmless but we cannot take any chances,” he added.

Director General of BSF R.S. Kataria, based at the forces’ Punjab Frontier headquarters in Jalandhar, said the pigeon was ‘inspected’ by senior officials including the commanding officer of the BSF battalion based in the area.

“Nothing suspicious has been found as yet but we are not taking any chances,” said Kataria. He said the bird could have been used to send across a message or a SIM card to a contact across the border.

He said that recently another pigeon was found on the Indo-Pak border in another state with something tagged on its body.

This is not the first time that a pigeon has flown across the border and got caught, the Express said.

Five years back, in May 2010, another pigeon with Pakistani markings was ‘apprehended’ near the border in Amritsar sector. It was then alleged that it was a ‘spy pigeon’.

The bird was later handed over to wildlife authorities after being ‘cleared’ in investigations.

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2015

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